China warns the UK to prepare for 'substantial damage' to the economy

Chinese state media warns the UK to prepare for ‘substantial damage’ to the economy after Boris Johnson stood up to Beijing and offered refuge to Hong Kong people

  • Chinese state media hinted Britain a trade deal with China could be off the table
  • The Global Times also declared that No 10 would have more to lose than Beijing 
  • PM Boris Johnson has challenged Beijing over a new security law for Hong Kong 
  • He said he’d ‘willingly’ offer three million people from the city visa-free refuge 
  • Dominic Raab indicated that the UK was prepared to sacrifice free trade deal 

A Chinese state-run newspaper has warned that Britain is facing ‘substantial damage’ to its economy and a trade deal with China could be off the table after Downing Street stood up to Beijing over a new security law for Hong Kong.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week said he would ‘willingly’ offer three million people from Hong Kong visa-free refuge in the UK if China erodes human rights in the former British colony – words that enraged the Communist nation.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab indicated that the UK was prepared to sacrifice free trade deal with China to protect people of the former British colony.

Chinese state media has warned the UK that a trade deal with China could be off the table after No 10 challenged Beijing over a new security law for Hong Kong. Pictured, a pro-democracy demonstrator waves the British colonial Hong Kong flag during a rally in Hong Kong on June 1

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week said he would ‘willingly’ offer three million people from Hong Kong visa-free refuge in the UK if China erodes human rights in the former British colony

Beijing’s state-controlled outlet The Global Times declared that Britain would have more to lose than China should a free trade agreement between the two nations fall through.

‘British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government may sincerely believe they are battling for their values as they confront China over the national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, when in fact they are complicating a much-needed deal, threatening to inflict substantial damage on their own economy,’ the nationalist tabloid said in a commentary today. 

The paper claimed that there were ‘many things wrong’ with No 10’s comments over the Hong Kong matters and stressed that the new security legislation was ‘exclusively an internal Chinese affair’.

‘One more thing British politicians may be mistaken about is which country needs the free trade agreement more,’ the author wrote.

‘The coronavirus has hit the UK hard, and it is currently suffering its worst peacetime downturn in centuries…’

Dominic Raab hinted to Sky News Britain had anticipated roadblocks to the trade negotiations with China, but stressed that protecting people of Hong Kong was ‘a matter of principle’

China is facing widespread criticism after Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament last week approved a national security law to ban what it deems as ‘subversion, treason and foreign interference’ in the semi-autonomous city. Protesters are pictured rallying in Hong Kong today

The Global Times has been at the forefront of defending Beijing’s actions and castigating the West over its criticism against the Community Party. The outlet’s editor-in-chief is an avid user of Twitter even though the social media platform is banned in China and people can’t access it

Billed as China’s ‘most belligerent tabloid’, the Global Times has been at the forefront of defending Beijing’s actions and castigating the West over its criticism against the Community Party.

Earlier this week, it accused the UK of waging a technological Cold War on Beijing over Britain’s reported plan to phase out Huawei from its 5G networks.

China is facing widespread criticism after Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament last week approved a national security law to ban what it deems as ‘subversion, treason and foreign interference’ in the semi-autonomous city.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said that the central government would not back down on plans for national security legislation for the financial hub, even as Britain stepped up criticism of the move.

The law could allow mainland security and intelligence agents to set up branches in the city for the first time.

Critics say the decree would mark ‘the end of Hong Kong’s freedoms’ and lead to the widespread use of secret police, arbitrary detentions, surveillance and even control over the internet on the island territory.

The act is a direct response to the months-long pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, which have seen millions of people taking to the streets to demand democratic reforms.

Hong Kong leader (pictured) has said that the central government would not back down on plans for national security legislation for the financial hub, even as Britain stepped up criticism

Chinese leader Xi Jinping pushes a button on Thursday to vote on the new national security law for Hong Kong, which critics say will destroy the autonomy of the former British colony

Beijing’s push to impose its will in the former British colony has stoked worry about its future.

It has prompted Britain to offer refuge to almost three million Hong Kong residents eligible for a British National Overseas passport.

Writing in the Times, Mr Johnson said: ‘Britain would then have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong.

‘Today, about 350,000 of the territory’s people hold British National (Overseas) passports and another 2.5million would be eligible to apply for them.’

Currently, the passports allow visa-free access to the UK for up to six months.

British Nationals (Overseas) do not have the automatic right to live or work in the UK, but can currently travel here without a visa for up to six months.  Pictured, a protester holds a British National (Overseas) passport in a shopping mall during a protest in Hong Kong on Friday

He added: ‘If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship.

‘This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in history.

‘If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.

‘Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life, which China pledged to uphold, is under threat.

‘If China proceeds to justify their fears then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulder and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.’

It is understood the people of Hong Kong will be offered a route into Britain only after the publication of full details of the proposed laws, expected this month.

The BNO passport was created for Hong Kong people before Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.

Though they are British passports that allow a holder to visit Britain for six months, they do not come with an automatic right to live and work there.

Hong Kong has been rocked by sometimes violent mass street protests since June last year because many people think their promised freedoms are eroding. Pictured, riot police detain a protester during a demonstration against Beijing’s new law in Hong Kong on May 24

Beijing’s state media criticised Britain after it extended the visa rights of Hong Kong people amid mounting international concerns over the end of freedoms in the former British colony. Pictured, protesters take part in a pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong on May 24

Dominic Raab yesterday suggested that Britain had anticipated roadblocks to the trade negotiations with China, but stressed that protecting people of Hong Kong was ‘a matter of principle’. 

He told Sky News: ‘Us extending the UK BNO passport holder offer to come to the UK in the way that I have described is not contingent on a free trade deal or anything like that, we wouldn’t allow that to get in the way of us living up to our responsibilities as a matter of principle both for moral reasons and international standing.

‘That is really important.

China yesterday accused the UK of ‘blindly commenting on and grossly interfering in our domestic affairs’ after Downing Street had urged Beijing to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged stern representations with the UK and claimed that No 10’s ‘interference will definitely backfire’.

Beijing’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian (pictured) lodged stern representations with the UK as he accused Britain of ‘blindly commenting on and grossly interfering in our domestic affairs’

Beijing’s push to impose its will in the former British colony has stoked worry about its future. It has prompted PM Boris Johnson to offer refuge to almost three million Hong Kong residents

The Chinese foreign ministry claimed that it had promised nothing to the UK about Hong Kong’s freedoms and did not have international obligations towards the Asian financial hub.

Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, said that China’s ‘fundamental principles’ for Hong Kong mentioned in a bilateral treaty signed by China and the UK in the 1980s were ‘a one-sided declaration of policy from China’.

He told a press briefing: ‘We urge the UK side to pull back before it’s too late, abandon the Cold War mentality and colonial mindset, recognise and respect the fact Hong Kong has already returned and is a special administration of China.’

Mr Zhao called for Britain to ‘abide by basic norms of international law and international relations’ and ‘immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs’.

‘Otherwise [Britain will] lift a stone and hit its own feet,’ he warned, using a Chinese idiom.

The UK and China signed an international bilateral announcement called The Sino-British Joint Declaration on December 19, 1984, to ensure Hong Kong’s freedoms and liberties after its handover to China.

The treaty protects Hong Kong with a constitutional principle known as ‘one country, two systems’, which aimed to allow residents in the Asian financial hub to enjoy rights unseen on the mainland, such as freedom of speech.

Activists hold a candlelit remembrance outside Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 4

One participant holds a flag bearing the words ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times’, a slogan of the ongoing pro-democracy protests in the Asian financial hub

People walk over barriers, which were set up to prevent access to Victoria park, to attend a candlelit vigil commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown

Tensions between Hong Kong’s riot police and pro-democracy protesters escalated again today after a few thousand people joined a peaceful main rally in Victoria Park.

Many of them were wearing masks and chanting slogans such as ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time’ and ‘Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong’.

Police pepper-sprayed some Hong Kong protesters who defied a ban to stage candlelight rallies in memory of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown, accusing Beijing of stifling their freedoms too.

Scuffles broke out briefly in the working-class Mong Kok area where hundreds had gathered and some demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers, prompting officers to use spray to disperse them, according to Reuters witnesses.

It was the first time there had been unrest during the annual Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong, which police had prohibited this year citing the coronavirus crisis.

Several protesters were arrested, police said.

Today’s clashes took place just hours after the city’s lawmakers approved a Beijing-backed bill criminalising insults to China’s national anthem – another sign of Beijing’s tightening grip.

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